The Medallion

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

I was provided with an ARC of this title by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This is an unforgettable story about a mother's desperation when the machines of war loom ominously and inescapably over ordinary lives. It is a story about moments bound together across   the lives of strangers, and heart-breaking sacrifices. 

When Rosa smuggles her daughter out of war-torn Poland, she sets events in motion that will haunt everyone involved for years to come. 

This is a wonderful, soul-shattering, tear-bringing story set in Hitler's Europe. You will need a lot of tissues and a lot of caffeine - because you will stay up bawling your eyes out and finally finish it in the wee hours of the morning.
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What a book. I was not planning to write a review for our website, but just a short one for Amazon, when I started reading The Medallion. I started reading it, and didn't bother keeping track of anything that might need warnings—and a couple of days later realized that I had been sucked into the plot much more than with most books I read, and that it was a very good book. My dear daughter, who runs the website, said that, with the way I was having such a hard time putting the book down, I really should write a review for her. So, I finished the book and then skimmed through it a second time to find the warnings for her.
This book tells the stories of two couples, both of whom had been married one or two years when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Janek was a pilot with the Polish air force; his English wife Sophie worked in the library in Warsaw. Itzhak and Rosa were Polish Jews living in Vilna, Lithuania. Janek was never able to come home after the invasion, and Sophia, after having her third miscarriage, had to change her name and move to a different home for her safety. Itzhak and Rosa soon moved to Warsaw to care for Rosa's mother, and then found themselves inside the ghetto.
As the war drags on and life becomes ever harder, Sophie began working in the Underground, helping where she could. At the same time, Itzhak and Rosa had to surrender their precious firstborn baby to Irena Sendler to save her life. Rosa sent half of the medallion Itzhak had given her on their wedding day with her baby. Would she ever see the little girl again? How many of them would even survive the war?
Cathy Gohlke has not whitewashed the war in this story. Some of the scenes she described were horrible—but true. She has shown the war the way it was for the common people caught in it, and how God protected some of them. I appreciated the theme that was woven throughout Sophie's part of the story. Like so many of us women do, she tried to be in control of her life and make things happen the way she wanted them. This led to deceit; she lied repeatedly to herself and others—and, predictably, that led to the breakdown of the relationships she most treasured. I really liked the advice her foster sister gave her. 
If you like books that make you think, that pull you in so you can hardly think of other things—this is a book for you. While it mentioned some very horrible things, and did not end happily for everyone, I still liked this book. I can't really say enjoyed, because it shows how awful people can be to other people, but the love and care of some people to others who needed help and love shines through so brightly that I consider this to be a great book. I also appreicated a women's fiction book that was not a romance. Cathy Gohlke is an author I will be watching for.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: Chapter 1 describes a bombing and shows the beginning stages of a miscarriage. Chapter 4 describes a man being shot by the Gestapo. Chapter 5 describes another man being shot. In Chapter 10 Rosa thinks about it being time for her monthly. Her mother talks about this infernal war. An allusion is made to marital intimacy. In Chapter 11 Sophie lies. Chapter 22 talks about an Aktion by the SS when many people were killed. Chapter 23 talks about another shooting, especially describing the deaths of two people Sophie had helped. Chapter 25 mentions more horrors. In Chapter 26 a guard is described who likes to shoot people, and the death of Rosa's mother is described. Chapter 27 tells what happened to an underground school when it was discovered. Chapter 29 shows the SS killing homeless children, and talks about the weapons the Underground had. Chapter 30 mentions a courier being shot in the street. Chapter 31 tells how whole families were killed. There is another allusion to marital intimacy in that chapter. In Chapter 32, people are executed. In Chapters 34 and 36, men are forced to dig up rotting bodies and bury them, and in Chapter 38 these men learn that they will be executed. In Chapter 35 mention is made of Underground workers carrying cyanide capsules. More shooting in Chapter 37. Chapter 41: as handsome a devil as ever. Someone is accused of rape in Chapter 50.
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A compellingly hope-filled heartbreaking story of two couples during WWII, and one child that links their lives inextricably.

Sophie is a British woman living in Poland and working in the library while her husband fights with his country. The war forces her to change her identity, as she is drawn into the events of wartorn Warsaw.

Young Jewish couple Rosa and Itzhak come to Warsaw to care for Rosa's mother, but find themselves trapped there as the birth of their long awaited firstborn draws nearer.

A poignant, heartbreaking read based on true events suffered by thousands in Poland during World War II, this story tells of two families, living mere miles apart in Warsaw as it is torn apart by the war. It also honors the brave men and women, Jew and Gentile who risked their lives to help others, like the courageous Irena Sendler.

In the beginning it took a while to get fully immersed into the book, as it bounces between Sophie, Rosa, and Itzhak. But once the threads slowly started to come together and the stakes were raised, I couldn't put this book down. Ms. Gohlke always writes stunningly real books, well researched, that also cut to the heart, and this one is no different, telling the heartbreaking realities that were faced by many in the Jewish Ghetto and work camps. 

There were moments when it was hard to read, because of the reality of the atrocities that thousands of people faced at the hand of other human beings. Yet through it all there was hope, small and flickering, but hope nonetheless. I was inspired by so many of the characters and what they risked, and my heart went out ot both Sophie and Itzhak over the heartbreaking decisions that they faced. Highly recommend this poignant, emotional journey, based loosely on true stories, with characters that will capture your heart. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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What I think you should know:
The Medallion is a haunting story that includes two fictionalized story about real heroes, Itzhak Dugin and Irene Sendler. Both were true heroes during World War II , author Cathy Gohlke wove their stories beautifully into the fictionalized story of Sophia Kumiega, a British Bride trapped in Warsaw, Poland when her Polish husband never returned home from a mission and Germany invaded.

How this book touched me:
I think is has been several years since I read a book about a country under Nazi control, however I know that this book is one that will stick with me for forever. My heart ached for the families, the children, for everyone who tried to help the Jewish people. As someone removed from the situation I have no way to comprehend how people could stand by while innocent people were killed. I want to somehow will everything into changing for the characters to have a happily ever after, but that was not the reality of the situation. The World looked away, People Died and we need to remember.

Who will love this book( Just to name a few):
If like Historical Fiction this is an amazing book, you might need a box or two of tissues and I wouldn’t recommend reading it on a break from something ( Like work ) but I highly recommend The Medallion.

I received a complimentary copy for this book from Celebrate Lit, this in no way influenced my review. All opinions are my own.
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I am not sure what words to use to describe this book: amazing, heart-wrenching, redemptive, horrific. I couldn't put it down and I didn't want to pick it up. 

Cathy took the historical events of World War II especially the Ponary Forest and brought them to life in this historical fiction novel. I have read a few of Cathy's books and they have all been amazing and this one was no exception.

It's the kind of book that when I sit down to write a review about it, I really have no words to describe it. All I want to do is pick up the book, shove it in your hands and say, "Sit down and read this, NOW!!" That is high praise for a book.. I don't talk about what I'm reading a lot, but before I was even halfway through this book, I was recommending it to a friend. 

Two families connected by one child. I don't want to say more because I don't want to give away the plot. The trauma and the horror that the Polish people went through during World War II is incomprehensible to me. I know the gist of the horror the Jews went through during the war, but this made it a little more real to me. Cathy didn't mince words and yet I didn't experience nightmares either after finishing the book. And that be because the book ended on a good note. I won't say it ended in a happily ever after and yet it ended with redemption. I would love to see a sequel to this book to find out how the ending truly played out.

I received this book from Tyndale via NetGalley and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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I feel as if there are no words to use in this review.  How can there be when a novel such as The Medallion renders a reader almost speechless? I wish I could just leave it at “Read this”. End of review.

Cathy Gohlke has a special gift with weaving history and fiction into reading material that is not only impactful, but beautiful. In The Medallion, that gift was tangible. Because of the time period the story was set in and the vivid descriptions the author painted, it was very hard for me to read this. But at the same time, I had to finish it… I had to keep on reading.

Each horror the characters were put through, every struggle and hope the characters experienced – It hit me straight in the heart. Again, there’s no way I can express in depth what this novel meant to me (which is why this review may seem all over the place!). Only that I’m so glad I read it.

Without question, The Medallion has a place on my list of the hardest books I’ve ever read. But it was worth reading every page!
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This book drew me in and kept me. Following the lives of these people through WWII and its aftermath left me wondering what choices I might have made. It's easy to point out someone else's weakness, but not so easy to spot our own. Rarely does fiction both leave you spellbound and yet pushing back, entranced and yet hoping for swift resolution. This fiction does.
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World War II was a horrible time in history yet there are numerous stories fiction and non-fiction written in that time period. I think it is because we enjoy reading about the kindness of people during a horrible time. We want to cheer on those who are fighting to survive. We applaud those who reach out to help. Even in a horrible time of history, there are stories of beauty, stories of love and sacrifice.

When I read that Cathy Gohlke was writing another book, I was excited. I was waiting and excited that I was able to review the book. Let me pause and say this if you have not read books that Cathy Gohlke has written, go get them. Get all of them. Then plan a weekend with coffee, a few snacks, and read the whole weekend. You will not regret it. So the other books are — Secrets She Kept, Saving Amelie, and Until we Find Home. — End of Commercial.

It took a little bit to get into the story as the characters are introduced. Sophie is British married to a Polish man who is away having joined the Polish Air Force. Then you meet Rosa and Itzhak who move to the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto. You know that somehow their lives will be connected.

I quickly fell in love with Sophie. I can’t even imagine what life would have been like for her at that time. Yet, she began to help and do what she could to help even though it is dangerous. Then one evening she opens the door and is handed a little girl. What will she do? How will she fight to keep the girl?

One of my favourite characters in the book is Rosa’s mother. You see the strength that she has and the wisdom. The sacrifice that she is willing to make for her family.

This is Christian fiction and so part of what makes it different is the values and the truths that you see. Sophie begins to act because of fear. As she is driven by fear, the question is what will happen, how will the lives around her be impacted because of that fear? Fear leads is dishonesty which leads to a lack of trust. What will bring this to light?

I enjoyed this book, it took a bit to get into the story. It was well-written exploring truths we all understand. I like the fact that it is based on events and individuals.
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The Medallion

by Cathy Gohlke

What is worse than being a Pole during World War II?  Being a Jew.  
And what is worse than either? Being a Polish Jew, a target for abuse, humiliation, torture and destruction.

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke tells the story of two families whose lives and deaths become joined through the horrors and hardships of life in Poland in World War II. Janet is a Polish fighter pilot married to Sophia, an English citizen, alone in Poland, but with a heart for Jewish children. Rosa has to make the most difficult decision possible to save her beloved daughter’s life. Her husband Itzhak, an electrician, endures the most horrific task assigned to any person by the Nazis, digging up mass graves with his bare hands. Can anything good possibly emerge from the desperation of this story?

Many of the characters in The Medallion are fictional, but are inspired by interviews and textual research. Some are found in history, including Irena Sandler who rescued 2,500 children and Dr. Janusz Korczak who ran an orphanage.

The tales of these two families are difficult to read but also inspiring. Towards the end of the book, when the war is over and all should be well, it isn’t. Sophia finds herself in a moral and personal crisis of faith that intimately affects the lives and futures of herself and those she loves most.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: The end of this book also includes discussion questions, notes to the reader about the writing of this book, and historical notes.

Publication:   June 4, 2019—Tyndale House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

“Adonai makes a way when there appears no way. It is His specialty. Remember the Red Sea.”  The words of her old friend came back to her, just as they did so often when Sophie felt at her wits’ end.

The Germans wanted to make certain that Poles were equipped only to follow orders, mostly for menial labor. They espoused the belief that a thinking Pole was a dangerous Pole. Hence, Polish schools were closed and thousands upon thousands of children did not learn to read or write—unless they were taught in secret.

“We’re not meant to handle life alone, Sophie. It’s too hard, too unpredictable, too messy and big. There is One who is willing and ready to help, to travel with us, if we let Him.”
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In September 1939 in Warsaw, English librarian Sophia Kumiega waits for news from her husband, a Polish Air Force pilot. A Jewish couple, Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich, are excited, for Rosa is expecting their first child. Suddenly, the Luftwaffe starts dropping bombs. Sophia miraculously escapes from the burning library but miscarries. Soon German troops occupy the city, and wall off a part of Warsaw, forcing the Jewish residents to move there. The Nazis subject the Jewish population to untold atrocities and hardships. Grieving for her loss, Sophia helps the Żegota (an underground Catholic organization) to assist Jewish children, smuggling them out of the Ghetto. Rosa gives birth to a miracle baby girl, Ania. But when the Germans start transporting Jewish families to death camps, Rosa gives up Ania to the Żegota. Rosa, expecting to find Ania later, hangs half a piece of a medallion around Ania’s neck. Sophia looks after Ania as her own but wonders if she could ever part with her.

This is a thought-provoking novel of courage, survival, and unselfish assistance during the Holocaust. The unspeakable adversities faced by the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto are narrated powerfully. Cathy Gohlke notes that she has based the plot on some real characters, such as Irena Sendler of the Żegota who rescued nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Also featured in the story is the discovery of an escape tunnel and mass grave in Lithuania’s Ponary Forest, and Itzhak Dugin’s account, who in the process of digging up the bodies identified his wife’s decayed body by the medallion around her neck. While this is a fictional account, it’s understandable that contrivances and coincidences used in the narrative are needed to piece together the events. However, the bringing up of a foster child with a new name and religion might make us wonder about its appropriateness. Recommended.

This review first appeared in the HNR Issue 89 (August 2019)
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Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced copy.

I have to admit that this book got to me. I actually stayed up until 2:30am to finish it. I don't believe I had read a lot about WWII in Poland. Parts of this book were hard to read, can't even imagine what these people went through. I did shed a few tears while reading this book.
If you like to read about WWII then this book is for you.
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I love reading about this time period. It is inspiring to hear the stories (fiction and non-fiction) about the many people who fought to find and keep hope in these most trying of times. The Medallion follows two story line as individuals attempt to survive in increasingly dangerous circumstances. As the characters lives become intertwined the medallion from the title comes into play as a beautiful connection to the past and a symbol of love and sacrifice.  This is a book that was read with tears as I grieved over goodbyes and dared to hope when threads of possibility were found.  I highly recommend this one!
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It’s difficult to write a review that does justice to this book. This story is heartbreaking and it’s been quite an emotional read for me.  Cathy Gohlke has clearly shown us the atrocities committted towards the Jewish people during World War II, and made it so personal with the characters in this book that I felt as if I’d known them.  I admired the courage and sacrifice that it took for Rosa, Itzhak, and Sophie to save the life of little Charlotte/Ania.  This story took a different turn towards the end that I did not expect, My heart hurt for everyone all the way through the book.  Once again, I was reminded of how many individuals risked so much to protect the lives of as many Jewish children that they could.  The author did a wonderful job taking her historical research and turning in into a moving story that I think will stay with me for a long time.  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from NetGalley. A positive review was not required. These are my honest thoughts.

Heartbreaker is the only word I can think of to truly sum up this one. It’s an exquisite tale of a few families facing the horrors of WWII. How many tears the author poured into this story I cannot possibly know, but, I’ll tell you, I gave her a run for her money! I cried in a vacation rental house, in the car on the way home, and into my pillow once I’d gotten home and found time around unpacking and catching up on laundry for those last heartrending chapters. That’s one thing about Mrs. Gohlke’s WWII fiction: it’s certain to make me weep, because it’s filled with raw and vulnerable emotions that I love experiencing while reading.

It was wonderful to see real-life people make appearances that were crucial to the plot. Irena Sendler, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, and Dr. Janusz Korczak provided splashes of truth to the wealth of rich details that Mrs. Gohlke infused into every page of this novel. From the wedding to open the book to the hardships of living in the Polish and Lithuanian ghettos during the second World War to the traumatic forced labor… every scene swept me away into a time in history I’m glad I personally missed. I’m so grateful for the ways in which God inspired and helped and encouraged those who did live through it. My heart breaks at the thought of how many starved or froze to death and those who were so callously murdered by the Nazi regime. Such a tragic time in our planet’s, in all of humanity’s, history, and I hope we take books like this seriously so we remember the dark places we’ve been. If we don’t, they will be repeated.

The only drawbacks about this book for me: two expletives, tobacco, alcohol and pubs, and one character’s name suddenly changing for the “part two” section of the book. It was a slight alteration, but it threw me off for several chapters. Maybe I simply missed that her husband had, early on, called her something different than her POV revealed. But it seemed odd to me when the switch happened, so I don’t think his name for her was emphasized early on. Anyway, those things pulled me from the story enough to dock one star. But I still very much cherished this story and its raw emotions and big heart. It’s very impactful and meaningful, and I know it will have gobs of fans.
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Although the subject of this book made it hard to read (emotionally), it was one of the best books I’ve read this year. The author truly made me feel what the main characters were feeling, whether that be joy or pain, and that kept me totally engaged in the story.

This was the first book I’ve read by Cathy Gohlke but I will read her books in the future. This one would be great for my book club to read and discuss. I really liked how she tied everything together in the end and came up with a satisfactory ending.

I received this book from the publisher via net galley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are mine alone.
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The Medallion is a WWII historical fiction novel by author Cathy Gohlke. The setting is Warsaw, Poland (1939). I wanted to read this novel because I have an interest in WWII.

I learned: Jews were rationed only a fraction of what the Poles were, not enough to live on; The only way for Jews to survive, and not starve, was to buy food on the black market, and helping the Jews was illegal, which many Poles did.

This is a highly emotional novel, though I didn’t really get into it until about halfway through. If the reader wants to learn more about the dark side of war I suggest this book, parts of it are pretty graphic. There were times I wanted to scream at the vileness of war and other times cry at the atrocity of it. This was a hard novel to read, but no doubt it described all acts of war.

Disclaimer: I receive complimentary books from various sources, including, publishers, publicists, authors, and/or NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review and have not received any compensation. The opinions shared here are my own entirely. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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One of the things that I love about being a book blogger - is that I get to discover amazing authors. This was a new author to me. I fell in love with the cover and the description. As a history nerd, I love reading about all things 1860-1980. In this book we travel to WWII. The author has done careful research to ensure a accurate historical adventure. Such well written characters. The author presents a story line that will get all in your feels. You will laugh you will cry. The author takes you on such an adventujre as she tackles unthinkable situations. Itzchak and Janek, the heroes of the story,are such noble characters. You will be drawn to them instantly. 

I received a copy of this book through the Celebrate Lit Blogging program. All thoughts are my own.
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My Thoughts:
Get the box of tissues ready before you start this book.  For real.  

I love history and was eager to read this book as I’ve been devouring all things WWII lately.  Part of that is that I have been attending a few reenactments with my husband as babies allow me and partly just because it was a very complex time in our history that I am seeking to better understand. 

The cover.  Oh my.  This cover is gorgeous.  Even without knowing what the book is about the cover draws me to open and read the book.  I’m a sucker for a good cover. 

Definitely, have your tissue handy as I mentioned earlier.  This is a well written, can’t put it down, tear-jerker of a book. 

As a mother, I cannot even imagine handing over my much loved and prayed for child to another.  Not knowing if I would ever see him or her again, but knowing that if I didn’t they would not live.  Oh my. Tears.  All the mama emotions. 

The Medallion sucks you in like no book I’ve read before.  I had to keep reading.  Missing even one word was not an option because I HAD to know what would happen.  I love that this mixes history with fiction.  

Characters can make or break a story and the characters in this book are the best!  You really feel that you know them.  When they mourn you mourn, when they rejoice, you rejoice.  Be prepared for all the emotions.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, for anyone who loves a good heartfelt read, for anyone who just wants to lose themselves in a book.  In fact, it might be a good book to add to the pile of WWII history books that you compile for school for high schoolers.  Definitely find some on Irena Sandler to add to that history book basket.

I have voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from Celebrate Lit. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.
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With each stroke of the pen a word brings life into a story that deepens your emotions and grabs your soul with heartbreak. The author has delivered one of the most soul searching stories ever written. We don’t just read what the characters go through, she allows us to feel it with penetrating words. 

Survival is a strong word in this story as characters must hide from an enemy who wants nothing more than to eliminate them. It is hard to imagine that hatred of a certain race was so prevalent that the only outcome for many was death. The camps were deplorable and food was so scarce that a morsel was a treasure to get. 

There are a few characters that really stand out for their determination and bravery. As I read the story I cried for the lost souls who died because of prejudice. There was no mercy, only pain and agonizing suffering . Can you imagine what it would be like to send your child away to keep them safe not knowing if you would ever reunite with them? 

Freedom for some is just a word said in passing. Freedom for some is being able to walk the streets without fear, to worship without retribution and freedom is everything to these characters that the author shares with us. Her ability to make a story play out in front of you is a gift only a few can accomplish. 

This sentence broke me as I read it; “ You don’t even know what it’s like to be hungry , to be so cold you fear you might die before morning if you sleep -you fear and you hope.”  That is what the characters in this book endured and the author helps us understand what being captive, hated and tortured means . 

I couldn't put the book down because the characters had become like family. I needed to know if they were safe. I prayed that the gift given to a small child would bring her back to her family.I needed to finish the story and remind myself that freedom is not to be taken for granted.

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
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The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke is a wonderful and poignant historical novel. Having read another book by this author, I was very interested in reading this one and was not disappointed. With an intensely emotional impact, this story keeps the reader's attention from start to finish. The story portraying the German occupation of Poland during WWII and the aftermath of the war is told from two couple’s perspectives and it is apparent the author has an excellent grasp on the history of that era. The horrors of the upheaval of the Jewish peoples, the division of families, the difficult decisions individuals had to make to survive, the grueling work of forced labor, the trains to the death camps are realistically illustrated. Family loyalties, faith in God, Adonai, and forgiveness are central themes throughout. Can one child bring redemption to the two couple’s lives? Hope springs eternal even in the darkest of hours…it is always amazing to me that individuals who have lived through the barbarity and brutality of war still dare to hope—just a little—for the future. This is not a 'happy forever after' type book but a thought-provoking, soul-searching book that is rich and complex in its message. All in all, this is a book not to be missed.
I received a complimentary copy of this book via CelebrateLit. A favorable review was not required and opinions are my own. This review is part of a CelebrateLit blog tour.
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